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Lesson plan: What is a president?



  • Social Studies
  • Civics
  • Government



Brief description

This lesson plan helps early primary teachers introduce students to the concept of the presidency. It will explore the concepts of what a president does and who the president is.


Students will:

  • Know who the current United States president is
  • Understand what a president does
  • Understand how a president gets elected
  • Understand the concept of a four-year term of office


president, government, executive, election, candidate

Materials needed

  • Markers/chalk and writing surface such as chalkboard or whiteboard
  • Age-appropriate book about elections (see Education World’s recommendations below)

Lesson plan

Start by assessing what your students already know. The knowledge level is certain to vary between different children in the class -- from not having even heard the word “president” before to knowing exactly who the current president is. Make sure everyone has a very basic understanding by asking questions such as:

  • Has anyone heard the word “president” before?
  • Do you know who the current U.S. president is?
  • What do you think a president does?
  • What are some qualities a president should have?

Hint: When students are answering your questions, take notes on an interactive white board, a chalkboard or other highly visible classroom surface. Start a list of presidential duties, characteristics and qualities and continue to add to it throughout the lesson.

Share the facts

Now, bring the students up to speed with some fast presidential facts:

  • The president is the person in charge of our country, the United States. It’s similar to how the school principal is in charge of the school.
  • The president is hired by the American people for a four-year job. Once the four years are up, the people can either re-hire him or choose someone else. No one can be hired more than twice.
  • Barack Obama is the current and 44th president of the United States. He was re-hired in November 2012.
  • The next U.S. president will be elected in November 2016. Presidential candidates will run election campaigns in the months leading up to that time.

Read all about it

Once students have a basic understanding of what a president is, it’s time to expand it with a little reading. If your class has a carpet, this is the ideal time to call the kids to it for a story. These books would be perfect for the discussion:

Robin Hill School: Election Day, by Margaret McNamera
Ages 4-8
It’s Election Day in Mrs. Connor’s class for a new class president. All of the candidates make big promises (gumball machines, longer school vacations and more). Then, Mrs. Connor asks if anyone else would like to say something, looking right at new student Becky. Becky speaks, saying that she can’t guarantee any of the big promises of her competitors, but she will do her best. It’s a good early reader for talking about election promises.

My Teacher for President, by Kay Winters and Denise Brunkus
Ages 4-8
What makes a good president? Oliver knows, and he thinks it’s a lot of the same things that make a good teacher. So, the boy writes a letter to his local newspaper explaining why his teacher should be president. It’s a cute and easy to understand book that shows the comparisons in illustrations and words.

Duck for President, by Doreen Cronin
Ages 4-8
This award-winning follow up to Click, Clack, Moo follows Duck from pond to farmer to governor to presidency. It’s great for early readers, since it introduces elections in a very basic and fun way.

For more recommendations of children’s books with an election theme, read Use Children’s Books to Teach About Elections.

Extending the lesson

After reading the book, ask the students to describe the president or presidential-hopeful in the book. Make a list of these descriptive words on the same board that you used earlier to record presidential duties, characteristics and qualities. Then, ask them to draw a picture of what they think a president might look like. Use Design a presidential candidate to turn this into a full-fledged art activity.



Assess students’ participation in class discussion and their grasp of facts about the current U.S. president and the presidency in general.

Lesson plan source

Education World

Submitted by

Sarah W. Caron, Education World Social Media Editor


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